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Differing definitions of "Christian"

Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby deadwhitemale » 15 May 2009, 00:09

On a number of occasions I have been bluntly asked by someone in a public or semi-public setting if I was a Christian. Most often, the question was asked by a member of one or another evangelical denomination who wanted to "witness" to me. Such people often thought I must need a whole lot of extra saving because I was not wearing a happy face. Well, maybe I did need it, but not just because I wasn't smiling, I don't think.

Far less commonly I would be asked "Are you a Christian?" by someone who pronounced the word with a sneer or a disgusted tone. I mean it was plain that it was a dirty word, an epithet, to them. On the two such occasions I can recall most clearly, I was caught rather off-guard. The first time was circa 1982-'84. I was sitting around table with a group of Middle Eastern exchange students, all Moslems, whom I had made a point of getting acquainted with.

It may seem astonishing, but I guess some of them must have assumed I was a fellow Moslem. One in particular seemed rather shocked and disgusted to learn the truth. I remember how he looked at me across the table. His face could not have registered more disgust if I had literally been a dressed, talking pig sitting across from him. I had rather naively hoped that a certain level of respect and courtesy might still be possible between fellow "people of the book," but I was disabused of the notion that night.

The other time was just about twenty year ago, sometime in the first quarter or third of 1989. I was chatting up two girls in a cafe. I had been acquainted with both since the previous October, and was attracted to both of them, but one more so than the other. They were at best cool towards me that night, and, suddenly -- apropos of what, I'm not sure -- the one I was more interested in asked me, in a tone of obvious disdain or disgust, and with a moue of distaste, "Are you a
Christian?"

And I was momentarily at a loss for an answer. I think I finally sheepishly muttered something like, "A bad one, I guess." Not quite a denial of the faith, perhaps, but hardly an inspiring witness to it either.

Since those day my stock, standard, "canned" response to the question usually goes something like, "Well, I'm a Baptist. Does that count? Do you consider Baptists Christians?"

Of course that is a somewhat facetious response. What those post-Christian moderns hostile to or contemptuous of Christianity (and often any sort of goodness or virtue) usually want to know is if one is whatever it is they think a Christian is -- usually some species or variety of "holy Joe," "Jesus-shouter," or "sky pilot" -- sanctimonious, self-righteous and hypocritical. At best they may be thinking of someone rather like Ned Flanders of The Simpsons.

I don't think that was what those Moslems were thinking of, though. In fact I imagine their conception of what a Christian is was ironically closer to mine. I tend to use the term Christian in a rather broad, ecumenical and inclusive way. I don't use "Christian" as a synonym for any sort of sweet-voiced choirboy or stainless plaster saint, or even "nice guy (or gal)." I mean I'd include a lot of people who are not necessarily nice or pleasant or even safe to know.

Once, toward the end of my college days, I made the mistake of referring to the Christianity of the Byzantine emperors and nobility as "nominal." I was immediately and properly called on the carpet and corrected about this -- informed in no uncertain terms that the Byzantines took their Christianity very seriously. As I imagine their Islamic enemies did as well.

I was once friends with a fellow from Beiruit, Lebanon. He was not a Moslem, but a Maronite, a Christian Arab. (Well, I learned that he did not think of himself as ethnically an Arab, but rather a descendant of the Phoenecians. However, his first (of several) languages was Arabic, or a Lebanese dialect therof. I learned most of what little Arabic I ever knew from him.)

He had lost the sight in one eye in the savage street fighting (house-to-house, and even room-to-room fighting) in the early phase of the Lebanese Civil War, in 1975. To a splinter from an RPG (rocket propelled grenade), I think. He had been a Christian militiaman there, in the service of one or the other of the two main Christian warlords at the time, Chamoun or Gemayel. I'm not sure which. I think he had been what is called a Phalangist. The Lebanese Phalangists have a pretty bad name in some quarters.

He was a pretty tough guy himself, and not a bit like, say, Ned Flanders, but he celebrated Christmas and Easter, and considered himself a Christian, and I was not going to contradict him. To some "Christian warlord" may seem a contradition in terms, but not to him, nor to me. I remember that he drew conscious and explicit parallels between his war and the Crusades.

DWM
Last edited by deadwhitemale on 16 May 2009, 08:32, edited 1 time in total.
"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby friendofbill » 15 May 2009, 14:29

Very interesting! I find the word "Christian" a problem. It seems to me that today it is totally meaningless because it has been used to apply to so many radically diffrent sects, groups, denominations and movements. So I wonder:

I am an Episcopalian. So am i a Christian? There are many in (for example) the LCMS or certain charismatic churches who would say I am not.
Is a Roman Catholic a Christian? there are many on the "lunatic fringes" of radical evangelicalism that say no.
Is a Mormon a Christian? Many who espouse "orthodox" Christian doctrine say no.
What about members of Unity? Lots of doctrinally strict Christians reject Unity as being "not Christian."
The list could go on. It would seem that even Christians cannot agree on what "Christian" means, so how could the world out there have a clue? All they can do is wonder whatever is wrong with the whole bunch of us. After all, every group mentioned above states a belief in Jesus Christ, and when asked what is needed fo salvation, Peter answered, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Period. So who added all the additional requirements?

For that reason, I avoid calling myself a "Christian," and prefer to identify myself as, simply, one who loves and follows Jesus of Nazareth. I see myself as "Christian" only in the sense of being "not Muslim, "not Hindu."

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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby cyranorox » 15 May 2009, 19:12

this is an old question, and to address it, the Creeds were written. "In Communion" is the strictest line, but that correctly makes no comment about those outside - the may or may not be Christians.

My pocket version: if you will say that Christ is God, and you are not, that rules out most non-Christians from monism, pantheism and atheism. To rule out fringe sects, I'd say those who add to the creed move to the outside. The filoque may not be enough to indicate true separation; the creedal form "I believe in the Bible" is farther from the core. Asserting that Christ was created is another direction outward. So is claiming secret teachings for salvation or higher levels of spiritual rank. Starting a new church is right out; that brings into question all those who stay in a church whose history traces back to a new church - but only inot question, not a conclusion.

These issues were important to me in converting from unchurched to Christian; sorting through the claims and doctrines, as well as the aesthetic and historical evidence, i saw that I must join the OC.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 15 May 2009, 19:17

Thought provoking post, dwm, thanks.
deadwhitemale wrote:On number of occasions I have been bluntly asked by someone in a public or semi-public setting if I was a Christian.... Such people often thought I must need a whole lot of extra saving because I was not wearing a happy face....
As an evangelical myself I think the question is apropos for sad and stoic faces, as well as happy. Evangelicals prefer the term "born-again Christian" because it reveals more of one's understanding and commitment to the Bible than simple associations and assent. Jehovah's Witnesses call themselves Christians even though they reject Christ's divinity.
Far less commonly I would be asked "Are you a Christian?" by someone who pronounced the word with a sneer or a disgusted tone.... I was sitting around table with a group of Middle Eastern exchange students, all Muslims, whom I had made a point of getting acquainted with.... I had rather naively hoped that a certain level of respect and courtesy might still be possible between fellow "people of the book," but I was disabused of the notion that night.
Naive, indeed. I think your time would be better spent getting acquainted with the Koran which commands clearly and repeatedly that all unconverted Christians and Jews are to be summarily executed. Even more poignantly, the Koran commands that anyone who says that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is to be summarily executed. The word Koran means Allah's "Message" through his Prophet Mohammad. I'm glad for your sake they were not "submitted" that night (the word Islam means "to submit").
For this reason, I prefer the Muslim definition of Christian because it includes all of us as Christ intended: "The time is coming when a man who kills you will think he is thereby serving God." John XVI.2 (Phillips)
I was once friends with a fellow from Beirut, Lebanon. He was not a Muslim, but a Maronite, a Christian Arab.... To some "Christian warlord" may seem a contradiction in terms, but not to him, nor to me. I remember that he drew conscious and explicit parallels between his war and the Crusades.
It does to me. All mainstream Christians today condemn the Crusades as a perverse application of the Old Testament to New Testament medieval times. In the Old Testament God commanded the Jews to kill certain peoples on certain occasions. These directives were sanctioned and limited by date, location and purpose. They were not, as the Koran commands, limitless. Muslims invaded Europe for conquest in the seventh century, four centuries before the First Crusade. Mohammad commenced Jihad 1,400 years ago and commanded that it be perpetuated until the Earth is populated by no one other than Muslims.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 15 May 2009, 19:25

friendofbill wrote:.... Is a Roman Catholic a Christian? there are many on the "lunatic fringes" of radical evangelicalism....
Would you include Jesus freaks from the Jesus Movement of the 1970s in the lunatic fringe? Would you include "born-again" Christians? I receive Catholics as Christians. Just feeling a little self-conscious is all.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby john » 15 May 2009, 22:08

Having spent the first 28 years of my life as a Mormon, I know a thing or two about feeling as though you are a Christian, and yet having other Christians tell you you're not. The most common thing I heard was "because Mormons worship in a different Jesus than the one in the Bible, you're not a Christian". They are referring to, among other things, to the LDS claim that Jesus is a separate personage from the Father, and that he has a resurrected body of flesh and bone. Those who would call us non-Christians, however, all differed in their own belief of what kind of person God was. Some believed in a God who would save them by merely professing a belief, and nothing more. Others believed in a God who expected their life to be altered and for good works to be performed. Some thought God demanded strict obedience to things like not listening to music of any kind, while still others worshiped a God who would demanded baptism by immersion. There are Christians who believe that God loves all his children, and yet others who preach that "God hates fags".

Mormons aren't Christians because they believe in a different Jesus? A true Christian believes in the Jesus from the Bible, right? If all Christians did that, then there weren't be so many different Christian denominations.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby deadwhitemale » 16 May 2009, 08:59

cyranorox wrote:this is an old question, and to address it, the Creeds were written. "In Communion" is the strictest line, but that correctly makes no comment about those outside - the may or may not be Christians.

My pocket version: if you will say that Christ is God, and you are not, that rules out most non-Christians from monism, pantheism and atheism. To rule out fringe sects, I'd say those who add to the creed move to the outside. The filoque may not be enough to indicate true separation; the creedal form "I believe in the Bible" is farther from the core. Asserting that Christ was created is another direction outward. So is claiming secret teachings for salvation or higher levels of spiritual rank. Starting a new church is right out; that brings into question all those who stay in a church whose history traces back to a new church - but only inot question, not a conclusion.

These issues were important to me in converting from unchurched to Christian; sorting through the claims and doctrines, as well as the aesthetic and historical evidence, i saw that I must join the OC.



"O.C."? I am not familiar with those initials. I think I have mentioned before that, while I am nominally a Baptist, I don't find it very fulfilling or satisfying. I have toyed or flirted withe idea of converting to Roman Catholicism, but I just couldn't go through with it. I'm still not sure what I ought to be. :undecided: :sad: I think it would be true to say that I agree with or sympathize with some Roman Catholic beliefs, practices, and attitudes, but not others.

I come from a pretty long line of Protestants - I mean going all the way back to when big serious wars were fought over it. I can read about things like the Hussite Wars, or the crusades against the proto-Protestant Hussites of the 1400s, and be inspired by the military exploits of the Hussites and the brilliance of their general, Jan Žižka, and recognize a certain kinship. Yet I consider their Catholic enemies Christians too, and I am sure they were sincere. I recall that Joan of Arc, no less, a good Catholic by her own lights, sent a letter to the Hussites threatening to lead a campaign against them. Of course she never got around to that.

Moving forward in time, I don't doubt that both Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I were Christians according to their own lights. I have gone back and forth over decades about which side I would have favored in the English Civil War. (In my teens I favored the Roundheads, but in middle age I came to prefer the Cavaliers.)

I'm always torn different ways. My politics and my theology don't always agree very well, if at all. It all goes 'round and 'round, and comes out ... where? :undecided: :confused: Sometimes it seems to me that I am rather too secular in my outlook. I know I could not get behind any sort of theocracy, and I think liberty -- including freedom of conscience -- is an absolute good. I wonder if a good Catholic could go along with the "radical" amount of freedom I insist on?

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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby friendofbill » 16 May 2009, 14:37

Would you include Jesus freaks from the Jesus Movement of the 1970s in the lunatic fringe? Would you include "born-again" Christians? I receive Catholics as Christians. Just feeling a little self-conscious is all.


I think it would be impossible to simply brand any entire "movement" or denomination as "lunatic fringe: the term applies only to those who are qualified for it. I was thinking as I wrote, of the screwballs who show up on ChristianBoard.com occasionaly, post long denunciations of Catholicism, curse the Pope, and absolutely cannot be pinned down as to what "movement" or denomnation they represent -- they seem to have contempt for everyone except themselves. Yet they consider themelves Christians, and by definition, as they believe in Jesus Christ, they are Christians. Another reason why, responding to the OP, I distanced myself from the word "Christian."

Of course, any real Christian is "born again," Catholics very much included, so there's another "movement" that can't be painted with one brush as being "lunatic fringe." I'm not too familiar with the "Jesus movement" because, in the '70's, I was a lunatic myself, a hippie, stoned on hash and booze and chanting OM in dark places while listening to Procol Harum. And, incidentally, it ws not Christianity that opened the door to recovery for me, it was AA, inviting me to turn over my will and life to God as I understood Him; and that is perhaps why I am suspicious of any religious movement that claims to have a monopoly on God, Christainity included. I am an Episcopalian, and I thnk that is the right way for me, but not necessarily for everyone. I receiv any seeker of God as my brother.

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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 16 May 2009, 20:05

friendofbill wrote:
Tuke wrote:Would you include Jesus freaks from the Jesus Movement of the 1970s in the lunatic fringe? ....
.... "lunatic fringe: the term applies only to those who are qualified for it. I was thinking as I wrote, of the screwballs who show up on ChristianBoard.com occasionally, post long denunciations of Catholicism, curse the Pope, and absolutely cannot be pinned down as to what "movement" or denomination they represent -- they seem to have contempt for everyone except themselves....
Thanks. A definition is very helpful especially with a common generic term like lunatic fringe. I now know the people you are referring to and I agree with you.
I'm not too familiar with the "Jesus movement" because, in the '70's, I was a lunatic myself, a hippie, stoned on hash and booze and chanting OM in dark places while listening to Procol Harum.
Yeah, I liked Procol Harum myself and still like the Moody Blues. I'm convinced Justin Hayward could equal or excel Bob Dylan's two exquisite Gospel albums.
The Jesus Movement consisted of Christians who loved hippies and their converts. It also refers to converted rock musicians and their fans who preferred Christian lyrics with their rock music. "Why does the Devil have all the good music?" was the theme, Larry Norman, Andre Crouche and Billy Preston were early practitioners. By the 1980s the "Movement" had devolved to simply Contemporary Christian Music.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby Tuke » 16 May 2009, 20:19

john wrote:.... A true Christian believes in the Jesus from the Bible, right? If all Christians did that, then there weren't be so many different Christian denominations.
Well said.
I have a theory that one reason so many denominations exist is because none of us is so filled with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was, to practice the Bible's teachings perfectly. Many evolutions of the Church may be divers applications by imperfect practioners. These evolutions or denominations may even have been anticipated and sanctioned by the Lord.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby john » 16 May 2009, 21:07

Tuke wrote:These evolutions or denominations may even have been anticipated and sanctioned by the Lord.


But the bible says God isn't the author of confusion, doesn't it? Surely, if God exists, then God is one type of being, requires one form of worship, and expects one set of rules to be followed. Many parts of the bible were written down many years after the fact, translated countless times, compiled and recompiled, and now is being interpreted however the reader wishes to interpret it. The darn thing even contradicts itself! It's no wonder there are so many churches calling themselves Christian. Seems like they're all just fumbling around in the dark, doing their best to figure out what God wants of them until (presumably) Jesus comes down and sets them all straight.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby deadwhitemale » 16 May 2009, 21:32

In the early Seventies, when I was in my early to middle teens, when I was walking down the sidewalk or standing waiting to cross the street, no doubt with a glum expression or demeanor, it was a fairly frequent occurence for a pickup truck full of quite lovely "Jesus Freak" girls to pass by, with all the passengers shouting more-or-less in unison: "SMILE! JESUS LOVES YOU!" They'd drive on by, seemingly having a ball, leaving me alone with my gloomy reflections. They almost drove from the fold permanently.

I was very annoyed and put-off by this common practice, and, to tell the truth, if memory serves at all, this general kind of thing, and being exposed to various other manifestations of the so-called Jesus Movement, rather put me off Christianity altogether for a while. I stopped attending church regularly chiefly because I no longer wished to sing in the choir, which I had been pressured into. It did not occur to me I could still attend but not sing in the choir.

Even a bit later, when I generally wore my hair kind of long or long-ish, when I could get away with it, I was never a hippy --- though of course I was frequently mistaken for one by people who couldn't see or didn't look beyond the hair, and took not a few of the hippies' lumps for them.

Long hair alone doeth not a hippy make. (If you'll look at old portraits of, say, Oliver Cromwell (died, possibly of poison, circa 1659?), and Richard III (died in combat, 1485), you will see that they both wore their hair fairly long, and neither of them was any kind of hippy.

Music was and to a degree remains a special problem or sore spot for me. My father, born in 1920, was a State Trooper from c. 1950-'51 to late 1975. His father had been a country preacher in the Twenties and Thirties, when it was considered sinful to go to the movies. Dad never completely shook off an aversion to movies, even on television. He'd watch variety shows and game shows, and some situation comedies, and even some dramas (he was fond of Walker, Texas Ranger in the Eighties), but kind of shunned feature-length films. I never cared for Walker myself.

He was pretty socially conservative, but in more of a conformist way than I. He disliked (then) modern music very much, and somehow, over time, came to seem to blame me personally or hold me responsible for the music and other follies of the youth of the day, though I was hardly typical of my generation in any way. (I was probably the only kid on the block who never wanted to be a Beatle or Elvis or any kind of musician.)

Mom had had an unhappy childhood. She was religiously conservative, for the most part (allowing for some eccentric flirtations with things like astrology), and active in her church, serving for many years as a Sunday school teacher, and a popular one. She also disliked modern music, referring to much of it as "acid rock" in the early Seventies.

I was not very musical, either by upbringing or inclination. For instance, I owned few records, and never attended any rock concert in my teens or twenties, nor felt any special wish to. I just wasn't made that way.

However, I did experience a renewed interest in music in the middle 1980s, when I discovered the work of female British recording artist previously very little known in my part of the world. I bought several of her records. I remember feeling constrained to ask my mother's permission to buy the first one in the fall of 1985, when I was 28.

I was still living at home with my parents then, you see. One evening in about 1986 I was sitting listening to one of those records in the living room when my parents returned from what must have been Wednesday evening church services. Perhaps the topic of the sermon had been the evils of modern music. In any case, my mother could hear the music before even coming inside, and became incensed. She lumbered toward the record player bellowing "Turn that off! That's the DEVIL's music!" I think she would have broken my record, but for once I defied her and physically blocked her path, buying myself time to turn off the record player and put my record safely away.

Mom didn't like my books either. My tastes generally ran to fantasy and science fiction of a kind. At one point in perhaps 1988,when I was 31, a friend presented me with a picture book of photos of the aforementioned British recording artist, who at the time was a noted beauty. No, it was not at all pornographic, at least not to me. The day I brought it home Mom angrily snatched it away from me, crinkling its cover in doing so. About 20 or 21 years earlier she had confiscated my paperback copy of Ray Bradbury's Golden Apples of the Sun and thrown it away, because she'd discovered some relatively mild profanity in it. I salvaged it from the trash and still have it.

Convinced that I was "on drugs" -- when I was almost the only person I knew who was NOT -- she was always going through my stuff under the pretext of "cleaning" my room, often damaging something.

I moved out on my own in 1989, into the first of a series of rather substandard apartments. Of course I was not very free to play records there either, because of noise complaints from the neighbors on the other side of the paper-thin walls.

All this is just a round-about, rambling way of saying that in my youth I was generally not very interested in or enthusiastic about the things most of my contemporaries set great store by. I wasn't very interested in cars, for instance, and rather resented the way I was almost forced into driving -- into debt, and dependence upon an unreliable machine. To this day I find car ads on TV especially obnoxious and irritating.

I never, ever even tried marijuana. It was not even a temptation to me. It held no appeal or charm at all for me. On the contrary, I was repulsed by it and by all the trappings and ceremony and rigamarole surrounding it. Anyone sporting a cannabis leaf tattoo immediately forfeited my respect. "Sacred herb" -- bah! That'll be the day, when I worship a weed.

Of course, I have mellowed a good deal with age, and officially favor the legalization of pot, and just about all drugs, now. Not because I like them, or think they are good, or good for you, or are going to save the economy or the rain forest or anything, but just because I am generally a live-and-let-live, mind-my-own-business-type.

My "drugs" of choice were alcohol (chiefly beer), caffeine, and, circa early 1977 to mid-October of 1996, nicotine, in cigarettes. Why did I take up smoking cigarettes at age 20, but never pot? Good question. I would say it was mainly that pot and LSD and other hippy-type drugs were never presented to me in any appealing way. If anything, even when my hair was long, I was always sort of counter-counter-culture. Beer and cigarettes had little or no counter-culture cache to me (even though a kind of alcohol Prohibition still applied right around here, and many of the more zealous "Temperance" fanatics made little or no distinction between a can of beer and a syringe of heroin).

I wasn't especially clean-living, just kind of square, if you could see past the hair. I'm bald on top now, and finally cut the remaining fringe quite short, mainly to make it easier to wash when returning from my mother's death bed, and now from my father's.

It's interesting, though, how much I was offended by all that "Smile! Jesus loves you!" stuff back then. I felt that I was in a kind of ill-defined war, and that my side was losing, and that "darkness inescapable" was closing in, and there was not much to smile or dance and sing about.

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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby postodave » 16 May 2009, 21:50

The thing that springs to mind here is the story Lewis told of the mother who wants the children to tidy the nursery yet does not want to tidy it for them. In some sense God must will the present confused state of Christianity, and can still work with it on another sense he does not want it at all. If the question is who is to blame then it would be us Christians - but I would not feel at all confident in saying that some bit of the Church - using that word to mean all who confess Christ - is more responsible for these divisions than others.

At bottom is it is a fact that the world looks different to different people and there is no evidence that is neutral with regard to persons. John you are convinced the Bible contradicts itself, other people will look at the same passages and say these are not really contradictions if you look at them in a different way. Now ultimately you can't settle that by argument but if someone can make a defensible claim to have an interpretation that is non-contradictory then I think there is no reason to suspect them of dishonesty about that. (personally I think there are formal contradictions in scripture which arise from the idiomatic nature of the language it uses - but that would take too long to unpack)

For me it always in the end comes back to experience. I believe I have experienced God in Christ and I know that others have had that experience. Those who have not had that experience or who having had it come to reject it see the world in a different way. We can explore together whether different ways of seeing the world are more reasonable or satisfying but we may actually find it hard to find shared criteria for what kind of way of seeing things might be reasonable or satisfying. To me that is the way the world is - that is where we start from. I suppose that makes me post-critical.

I always wonder about you John whether moderating this forum makes you feel that Lewis's claims about Mere Christianity - that even though Christians differ they have a lot in common - seem not to be very valid after all. Do you not sometimes feel like chief warder of an asylum?

This was meant to follow from John's post - but DWM got here first
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby postodave » 16 May 2009, 22:02

Your Mum sounds to me like a very troubled woman DWM. I was into rock music before I became a Christian and after. I did throw out some punk and hippy records in my early Christian years but these days I listen to that stuff again and find for the most part I still like it. I can see now that some of my early heroes like Jim Morrison were not the wonderful people I once thought they were. As for Jesus Rock well a lot of those Jesus Rockers were pretty fallible as well. It's interesting to look at the spiritual journeys some of the sixties rock stars made though.
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Re: Differing definitions of "Christian"

Postby deadwhitemale » 16 May 2009, 22:05

postodave wrote:The thing that springs to mind here is the story Lewis told of the mother who wants the children to tidy the nursery yet does not want to tidy it for them. In some sense God must will the present confused state of Christianity, and can still work with it on another sense he does not want it at all. If the question is who is to blame then it would be us Christians - but I would not feel at all confident in saying that some bit of the Church - using that word to mean all who confess Christ - is more responsible for these divisions than others.

At bottom is it is a fact that the world looks different to different people and there is no evidence that is neutral with regard to persons. John you are convinced the Bible contradicts itself, other people will look at the same passages and say these are not really contradictions if you look at them in a different way. Now ultimately you can't settle that by argument but if someone can make a defensible claim to have an interpretation that is non-contradictory then I think there is no reason to suspect them of dishonesty about that. (personally I think there are formal contradictions in scripture which arise from the idiomatic nature of the language it uses - but that would take too long to unpack)

For me it always in the end comes back to experience. I believe I have experienced God in Christ and I know that others have had that experience. Those who have not had that experience or who having had it come to reject it see the world in a different way. We can explore together whether different ways of seeing the world are more reasonable or satisfying but we may actually find it hard to find shared criteria for what kind of way of seeing things might be reasonable or satisfying. To me that is the way the world is - that is where we start from. I suppose that makes me post-critical.

I always wonder about you John whether moderating this forum makes you feel that Lewis's claims about Mere Christianity - that even though Christians differ they have a lot in common - seem not to be very valid after all. Do you not sometimes feel like chief warder of an asylum?

This was meant to follow from John's post - but DWM got here first



Sorry about that. I suppose I did rather break the flow. Re. the "idiomatic nature" of the language, I have been told that Hebrew and related Semitic languages do not translate at all well into English, even if they have first gone through translation into Greek or Latin. I am not enough of a -- what's the word? Philologist? Etymologist? Linguist? -- to say, myself.

DWM
"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
deadwhitemale
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